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Why you want to join Mannie Fresh for his Virus-Killaz and Gospel Get Down DJ sets this weekend

The legendary producer has joined the Instagram Live DJ boom, but he’s taking it to new places, like with his Sunday gospel DJ brunches.

Why you want to join Mannie Fresh for his Virus-Killaz and Gospel Get Down DJ sets this weekend
[Photo: The Come Up Show/Wikimedia Commons]

Mannie Fresh is the hit man responsible for “Back that Azz Up”—one of the greatest anthems in hip-hop history—among other classics. He started out in New Orleans as a DJ, like his father, then established himself as a producer, rapper, and songwriter. He gained international fame in the 90s as part of the Cash Money Records roster with Juvenile, Birdman, Lil Wayne, and more.

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His production has been sampled by Beyoncé (“Before I Let Go”), Drake (“Nice for What”), and Kendrick Lamar (“Element”), among others. Most recently, he has been lending his talents to upcoming projects with Bun B and Lil Wayne, but then the ‘rona happened, and it changed how creatives operate.

For Mannie Fresh—who isn’t the biggest fan of social media—it meant jumping into the virtual ring of beat battles and DJs providing live sets on Instagram and elsewhere for the sake of everyone’s sanity. Virus-Killaz is his Friday- and Saturday-night dance party that features an array of music, including New Orleans bounce-ified versions of classic hip-hop and R&B tunes.

On Sundays, there’s the Gospel Get Down, where it’s gospel music but played in unexpected ways, which also means a bounce or go-go version of various inspirational tunes, as well as hearing from up-and-coming artists.

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Mannie Fresh’s goal is to make people feel good—which is in alignment with his church roots—and during this process, he has gained a new appreciation for how social media can be used for creativity and business. He also takes great pleasure in introducing the world to new sounds.

Fast Company caught up with him just in time for Easter to chat about this weekend’s upcoming sets, the friendly competition birthed from the coronavirus creativity movement, and more.

[Image: courtesy of Mannie Fresh]
Did D-Nice inspire you to jump into the mix of live DJ sets, or was this something you had already been planning? 

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I had already planned it and D-Nice beat me to the punch. It’s cool, because a little competition is always good. When I realized that we would be in this situation, I knew we were going to have to use social media for a DJ set. What we wanted to do was go above the way everybody else is doing it. We wanted to give you a true digital signal where the sound quality was good, and the picture was good and all of that. So that’s what took us a little longer. But I’m glad we went ahead and did it.

You have the club party element, but you added a gospel party to the mix on Sundays, which was unexpected. Then on top of that, the gospel music you play incorporates New Orleans Bounce and even go-go, which are unconventional sounds when you think about gospel, but it works. 

I felt like everybody needs that relief because it would be a normal thing that you do. Like, if you party on Friday and Saturday, a lot of people go to church on Sundays or they have some kind of thing that they do. I also thought no DJs were doing that, so if I can give you a little bit of relief on Sunday—because everybody wants something to make them feel good—and on top of that I know the records from coming up going to church and having that background—so I just felt like, why not bring it to them?

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Do you have anything special planned for the Easter edition of the Gospel Get Down? 

I don’t know what I’m going to do for Easter yet, but now that I have the Gospel Get Down, I get a lot of young gospel artists who are interested in getting on the live and playing their music. Last week, we had Isaac Carree, and he played two of his new songs. I want this to be a showcase too, where new artists with positive music can share, especially in these times. So we don’t know what’s happening for Easter yet, but we’re just handpicking who’s right.

You mentioned the competition element earlier, which is so hip-hop. And then producers are getting in the metaphorical ring with the beat battles too, which has that classic “I’m better than you” vibe to it.  

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Even with the beat battle, I’m very competitive. Hopefully the one that me and Scott Storch did showed other people they have to have some rules to it. Because what we did was more of like, he has R&B hits, I have hip-hop hits—not to discredit his songs, but it was weird because my arena is very competitive. I have skits and all of that. He just played a record, so it threw a lot of people for a loop, but I have been doing beat battles before it even got on [Instagram and Facebook] Live. Just Blaze was doing this. Me and KLC were doing this, so the idea pretty much came from something that we were doing catalog against catalog. But all the skits and the competition was in it.

Is there anything you would have done differently about that battle with Scott Storch?

I wouldn’t have battled Scott Storch. I think it’s two different varieties. It’s two different categories of music.

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[Image: courtesy of Mannie Fresh]
Sonically, you build some cool stuff into your sets. For example, there was that one moment where you transitioned from a bounce version of an Anita Baker song to “Back that Azz Up.” How did anyone ever make a bounce version of any Anita Baker, period, and who would think to pair her songs with Cash Money? I mean, you, but

The biggest compliment I get every time somebody checks in is, “How do you decide what your set is?” and I’m like, I don’t decide, I just do it. It’s supposed to be in the moment. A lot of people haven’t been exposed to New Orleans culture so now they can see that we really do a bounce version of everything from 80s songs to 90s songs, an R&B song, country songs, and even gospel. It could be a slow song and they’re gonna figure out how to bounce it. Different places have—say, for instance, D.C. and how they have go-go music. That’s their thing, they own that. When it comes to New Orleans, it’s bounce music. We’ll start off spur-of-the-moment and do things right on the spot. This exposes who the true creative DJs really are, because a lot of people are just getting by because we never see them do it or we just see the finished product. What I love about Virus-Killaz is, technically, there are no hours. I’ll go as long as I want to go, and it shows the range in your playlist. Can you go from R&B or old school? Can you go new? Can you go bounce? I think a lot of DJs at events have a lot of things prerecorded.

And in this case, you can’t read the room because there’s no crowd with you and comments on the internet can be random. 

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You pick the best songs that are out right now and what you would want to hear. It’s more of a feeling. Usually you have to look at the crowd, but right now it is definitely a feeling because there is no crowd. It’s really just you and your skills. I just try to stick to good songs, and a good song can be anything. There’s no one genre on what a good song is. That could be a country or a rock song. Some of my comments—because people have seen me DJ different parties—ask when I’m going to do EDM. I do different hours so I’ll give them their set, too [eventually].

Things have obviously changed with how creatives use social media, so what happens once this coronavirus situation is over? Will you continue doing things like this? 

Definitely. I was not a fan of social media, but I wasn’t using it the way I’m using it now. I just felt like too much stuff got told on social media and instead of me embracing it as a business tool, it felt like you had to tell it all before you even get the business. It’s too much going on, but I had a meeting with my team, and we said we could use it to launch some really cool stuff, so that’s the way I’m embracing it and how I plan on keeping it. I don’t want anyone to know too much about my life. I don’t want to give you that side of me. It’s already hard enough to be out here. I just want to give you the music.

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Speaking of the music, what other content have you been enjoying that popped up in this situation?  

I love the fact that anytime you click on somebody’s live—it’s a million DJs right now. It’s almost like a silent disco. You can go from Kid Capri to D-Nice and anybody in between. And the cool thing is that it’s creating friendly competition.

So this is what our Easter weekend is looking like this year, huh? 

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Yeah. Stay home and let me do the work for you.

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